Nothing to do with Covid 19 thankfully, I attach a case history concerning the application of R&D Claims, a favourite ‘ambulance chasing’ sector of the accounting industry. The message from the case is clear…..be careful and obtain evidence in support of your claim.
What accountants need to know from the AHK Recruitment R&D tax tribunal case
HMRC recently reported on the outcome of a first-tier tax tribunal case investigation into an R&D tax claim.
What happened during the investigation
In this case, AHK Recruitment Limited worked with Optimal Compliance to compile an R&D claim for an internal software project. HMRC opened an enquiry to understand how the project qualified as R&D in line with the legislation. After months and months of delays following HMRC requests for evidence Optimal, on behalf of AHK, could not produce sufficient evidence around the projects and critically could not produce a competent professional at AHK to provide evidence. Whilst CVs were submitted, HMRC could not speak to them directly. The HMRC enquiry also highlighted that whilst subcontractors costs formed part of the claim there was no evidence of what they were doing and how it aligned to any potential R&D project.
What can we learn from this case?
What it means for R&D advisors
The R&D market is a competitive one with new players on an almost daily basis. As most advisors charge on a contingent basis, sadly there are some poor behaviours that make this market feel more PPI than professional services. This case underlines the reality – R&D is complex and needs due skill and attention from a professional. We at GovGrant believe in the specialist nature of R&D work – in the methodology of a claim, the compliance to legislation and the technical evidence needed.
This judgement should not scare clients who are making an R&D claim or deter accountants from raising the potential, quite the opposite. This is a vital source of government investment in innovation – but it needs to be treated as such – an investment, not free cash for anyone who asks.
There should be no room in this industry for cowboys and poor practice as agents have a role to play in protecting the integrity of the scheme and that the government investment is well place. Providers who offer headline solutions of compiling R&D claims in ‘minutes, not hours’ need serious scrutiny. Can you get enough evidence in minutes and will those providers be there to support you in an HMRC enquiry? Most certainly not.
There is obviously a need in some cases to streamline processes and make the process reflective of the benefit that is received – but not at the price of potential abuse. DIY software platforms have a role to play but accountants and advisors should be under no illusion that it replaces in depth consultancy when it is needed.